The Taoiseach has promised to keep a ‘close eye’ on universities and colleges to ensure they ‘do not charge exorbitant rent’ after being challenged on the topic in the Dáil.

The crisis in the student rental market was brought up in the first leader’s questions following the return of the Dáil after its summer recess. Taoiseach Micheál Martin was responding to reports of desperate students looking for accommodation on the same day a major housing protest took place outside Leinster House.

The Taoiseach told the Dáil he doesn’t want students who can’t find accommodation staying in hotels. After People Before Profit TD, Richard Boyd Barrett told the Taoiseach that important issues in the housing market were being ignored due to the ongoing Katherine Zappone controversy, Micheál Martin responded by saying the government would keep a ‘close eye’ on universities and colleges to ensure they ‘do not charge exorbitant rent.’

The Taoiseach followed up by pointing out that the government has been ensuring that colleges and universities have the capacity to borrow in order to increase the supply of on-campus accommodation. 

Deputy Boyd Barrett raised the issue in the Dáil following RTÉ reports that showed third-level students staying in hotels due to the lack of accommodation. He said that there was a ‘disease of unaffordable rents,’ which was pricing students out of the market. 

The Dun Laoghaire TD used UCD as an example where students were facing the rising costs of on-campus accommodation, telling the Taoiseach that some students were paying up to €14,000 a year in rent. He added that Dublin is ‘littered’ with luxury student accommodation that charges thousands for rent.

The President of the UCD Students’ Union, Ruairí Power, responded to the Taoiseach’s comments on Twitter calling it a ‘frustrating and very inadequate response.’ He followed up by saying that Fianna Fáil ‘are subsidising elitist, discriminatory housing strategies in UCD without setting any pricing criteria and allowing universities to focus only on “platinum” and “penthouse” apartments for up to €14k per year.’

Power also criticised UCD’s residential masterplan which he says will ‘will focus entirely on luxury accommodation for the next decade.’ He added that this represents a ‘Very clear message sent by UCD that students from working-class and middle-income backgrounds aren’t welcome.

Conor Paterson – Co-Editor